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Week 9 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 30, 2011 at 7:21 PM

I don’t anticipate having much blogging time this week as I haven’t been feeling well, and I don’t have the type of job where I can just call in sick with a cold, so that’s why I’m doing this now instead of on Monday (or later) as I have been doing.

I’ll start with an anecdote I found interesting. In my first mathematical rankings, Maryland was only one spot behind Ohio St. Now, they are separated by 68 spots, and Ohio St. isn’t even in the top 25.

I anticipated Alabama might fall a spot with the bye week, and that’s what happened, as Oklahoma St. jumped into the #2 spot.

Announcers talk about how “the computers love Oklahoma St.”, but computers do not have feelings. It just so happens that ULL has only one other loss (albeit to a weak team), and Tulsa has only two other losses (to Oklahoma and Boise St.; there are maybe ten teams in the country who wouldn’t have three losses against that schedule). Arizona and Kansas are quite bad, but those are two reasons LSU has managed to come out ahead of the ’Pokes in my ratings. On the other hand, Kansas and Arizona have the best two schedules thus far according to my preliminary SoS, so that can keep those two games from hurting Oklahoma St. very much, and as a result, it’s not surprising many ratings have the ’Pokes #1. It is possible they might be #1 in my ratings if Alabama beats LSU. It would depend upon how past opponents of Oklahoma St. and Alabama do. But I would anticipate that my ratings will still have the “right” top two either way. By the way, my ratings agreed with the BCS as far as the top two teams entering the bowls in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind that cut against Oklahoma St. They will have a bye week, and any team which plays in the SEC Championship game will not have a further bye week, so that’s a chance for the SEC team to come out #1 even if they trail after next week. Also, it would not be a surprise if the value of the wins over Tulsa and ULL were to diminish based on performance in the upcoming weeks.

None of the above is to say that the ’Pokes win Bedlam anyway (or beat K-State and Texas Tech on their way there…I do think it’s safe to say they’ll beat the Cyclones though). But anyone can win LSU-Arkansas or Alabama-Auburn as well. Barring some kind of catastrophic injury or suspension situation, I struggle to imagine LSU or Alabama losing between next week and those respective games. (Recent LSU and Alabama teams have failed to show up in character for such games, but I haven’t seen that quality in these editions yet.) LSU will face Western Kentucky and Ole Miss, while Alabama will face Mississippi St. and Georgia Southern.

The SEC Championship game could also be interesting. It could be a South Carolina team with only a three-point loss to Auburn in Week 5 or a Georgia team on a 10-game winning streak. Since that last loss was to South Carolina, Georgia could finish with two overall losses and actually fail to make the championship game like it did in 2007. South Carolina plays @Arkansas this weekend, so that may chance this fact.

Oklahoma could leapfrog one or more undefeated teams by beating Texas A&M, although it would have potentially helped the Sooners more had the Aggies beaten Missouri. The following week, Boise St. and Stanford have what will probably be their best remaining point opportunities against TCU and Oregon, respectively.

I don’t think Clemson has much of a shot, but if they beat a once-beaten South Carolina team followed by a once-beaten (by Clemson) Virginia Tech team, Clemson could have an argument with some help.

What follows are 10 other teams, one undefeated (Houston) and the rest with one loss each. Those who have a chance to knock off the top 7 are in a better position than those who do not. The next 7 each have two losses, and #25 North Carolina has three losses.

Like with the BCS, it’s not always a good idea to pick the teams with fewer losses to win, but those teams do tend to be higher since it’s a system designed to pick the best two teams. If two teams have even somewhat similar schedules, you want the team with the better record to come out on top for #1 or #2. I don’t care so much about #14 really being better than #15, for example. By the way, I don’t think they are.

Full 120

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Okie St. 5
3 Alabama 2
4 Boise St. 4
5 Stanford 7
6 Oklahoma 9
7 Clemson 3
8 Houston 8
9 Va. Tech 10
10 Nebraska 17
11 Michigan 12
12 S Carolina 11
13 Penn St. 14
14 Kansas St. 6
15 Oregon 15
16 Arkansas 19
17 So. Miss. 21
18 USC 13
19 Mich St. 16
20 Ga. Tech —
21 Georgia —
22 Arizona St. 23
23 Texas —
24 Auburn 24
25 N.Carolina —

Out of rankings: (18) Texas A&M, (20) Wisconsin, (22) Syracuse, (25) Cincinnati

Prior rankings:

Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

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Obligatory Game 6 Blog

In Me, MLB on October 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM

About 4 weeks ago, I wrote about the last day of the season and mentioned what great baseball viewing it was. I still think that was the best day based on the fact that two series were tied and three of the four games went down to the wire, with a rain delay in Baltimore perfectly timed, combined with a late finish in Tampa. But I’m having trouble coming up with a World Series game better than the one last night. I am old enough to remember 1991 Twins-Braves, 1993 Blue Jays-Phillies, 1997 Marlins-Indians, etc., and obviously there were some great Game 6/Game 7 hits in those series, but the three instances of the Cardinals coming back to tie before the game-ending home run has to put this over the top for a single game. Now, if I had to choose between being there last night and being there for Don Larsen’s perfect game, I would have chosen the perfect game, but I wasn’t around back then and even something that historic has a sort of predictable flow to it. At first, it was simply an early-game lack of offense, then after a handful of innings, with each out it became a bigger and bigger deal. This was a complete roller-coaster though, and it looked like completely different Cardinals teams (except for Lance Berkman anyway).

I love the weird facts and statistics that come up in baseball so you can have a long list of the first team to do x, the first player to do y, etc., even after 106 World Series. So that’s what I’ll start with.

The Cardinals are the first team to score in the 8th, 9th, and 10th in a World Series game (then they added the 11th). They are the first team to come back from down 2 runs twice in 9th or later.

The last team to win a road Game 7 was the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates. At least the Pirates did some things before I was born, because other than almost beating the Braves in the early ’90s, they haven’t done much since.

8 teams since then have won seventh games at home, 7 of them were down 3 game to 2 before winning the last two.

Two teams during that time period had won Game 6’s on the road, the 2003 Marlins and 1992 Blue Jays. The other exception (the winner at home who didn’t trail 3-2) was also the Marlins, the 1997 edition, which lost to the Indians in Game 6 at home before winning Game 7.

I have to single out a certain player, David Freese, of whom I became a big fan earlier in the playoffs, and now he might be my favorite player. I thought the Cardinals were going down most of the night of course, but I knew he wouldn’t get the last out. I don’t remember ever being that confident that a player would somehow reach safely. Based on his interviews, he wasn’t that confident himself (he said what was going through his head was something to the effect of, “Seriously, I dropped a ball on my head and now I’m going to be the last out in the World Series?). Two innings after hitting the game-tying triple, Freese hit the first walk-off home run in Game 6 or 7 since Joe Carter in 1993. Others in recent history: Kirby Puckett in ’91, Carlton Fisk in ’75, and Bill Mazeroski in ’60. Freese was the first player to hit tying or go-ahead hits twice in 9th or later in single WS game.

But it’s important not to overlook Lance Berkman. He doesn’t get that home run in the first and the gradual bleeding by the Cardinals’ pitching staff would have made the lead insurmontable, barring a Rays-esque comeback, but of course the opposing team was not the Yankees trying to keep guys fresh for the playoffs, so that just wouldn’t have happened. Berkman also scored a run in the 4th, a run in the 6th, and the tying run in the 9th; and he batted in the tying run in the 10th. So he scored and/or drove in 6 of the Cardinals’ 10 runs.

I actually got to see Berkman play once, for the New Orleans Zephyrs when they were an Astros farm club. This was only about 10 years ago, so it was after he had played for some time in the majors already. At the time, I wondered if his career was winding down, but apparently it was not. I was never a big fan of Texas teams though (and I was decidedly on the side of the Cardinals when they battled the Astros in the Central in the ’90s), so I wasn’t much of a Lance Berkman fan back then, but I knew the Cardinals picked up a guy with some skill when they got him.

This is honestly not to rub it in, and I know the Rangers have what it takes to win tonight if the opportunity presents itself, but there are some facts about the Rangers that should be mentioned.

This was the first time in a World Series that a team had 3 blown saves in one game. If you can’t remember the first one, it was by Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning when he walked Yadier Molina with the bases loaded, which tied the game at 4. But since he did not give up a run that was charged to him and got credited for an out when Matt Holliday was picked off third, he actually improved his ERA for the series to 11.57. Without the pick-off play, his second walk issued may have resulted in a run as well (but again, it would not have been credited to him, nor would it have been an earned run anyway). I say “may have” because of course, we don’t know how the pitches might have been different and so forth, but I think he was having enough trouble finding the strike zone that he would have issued the walk. Putting Ogando into the game in that situation was one of many baffling decisions by Ron Washington.

To give Wash some credit, he may have honestly believed the problems would work themselves out. Against Detroit, Ogando had allowed only one earned run in 7 2/3 innings pitched. But when a pitcher doesn’t have his stuff (and/or is facing a team that seems to be seeing his pitches really well), you don’t put him into a one-run World Series game with the bases loaded and one out in the hopes that his problems will suddenly vanish. If Wash had put him in at the start of an inning or when the bases were empty and then put Derek Holland in if he ran into problems, that would have made a lot more sense and may have resulted in no damage being done even with the same pitches.

“The Rangers had gone 5-2 in the postseason when walking five or more batters; that’s just not sustainable. When doing that in the regular season, they went 7-19. They walked seven batters in Game 6.”

ESPN’s David Shoenfield mentioned the above quote as well as some other interesting facts and strange decisions (including the Ogando decision) here.

I’ve been a Tony LaRussa fan since I was 7 years old, and as I learned the rules and strategy, I became more and more of a fan of his, but I did have a similar issue with him. I question possibly misplaced loyalty by LaRussa in reference to Rafael Furcal. He might get 3 hits from the leadoff tonight (in which case the announcers will heap praises upon LaRussa for sticking with him), and I understand him being in the game yesterday because it’s important to have a good shortstop (the 5-6-4 double play was beautiful), but the leadoff batter going 0/5 was a big part of the Cardinals’ offensive woes before Allen Craig’s home run in the 8th. The #2 and #3 spots didn’t help much either, going a combined 2/11, although of course Albert Pujols got the double to start things off in the 9th (later scoring on Freese’s triple) and former LSU star Ryan Theriot at least put the ball in play for an RBI in the 10th. Theriot went 0/3 though. The one hit from the #2 spot had come in the first inning and made Berkman’s home run count for two runs.

Well, they scored 10 runs, what offensive problems am I talking about? Don’t forget that the Cardinals had only two hits (in the second and fourth AB’s of the game) in the first 5 1/3 innings. They had three runs because of the two-run home run, and the following fourth inning:
Berkman safe on error.
Holliday walked.
Freese grounded into fielder’s choice (Holliday out at 2nd, Berkman to 3rd).
Molina grounded out to third (Berkman scored).
Punto struck out swinging.

After Berkman’s infield single in the 6th (which led to the run on Ogando’s bases-loaded walk), the Cardinals actually batted around without a hit. So there were still only three hits before the Craig home run with one out in the 8th (and we thought with only 5 outs to go before a trophy presentation).

So that’s a good way to get your second and third blown saves. Give up 6 runs on 10 hits, 2 walks, and a sacrifice while only getting 8 outs. Still, I think it’s fair to criticize the line-up that made that necessary for the Cardinals to win.

But Tony may put Furcal 9th in the order for all I know. He’s done similar things before, although probably not in the World Series. This will be LaRussa’s first World Series Game 7. Incidentally, yesterday was his first Game 6.

Of course, this will be the first Game 7 since the Angels (my AL team of choice and the only local MLB team I’ve ever had…I don’t count the Dodgers) beat the Giants in 2002.

All the people watching the game probably missed this, but I did post a college football blog about reorganizing the conferences here if you didn’t catch it. By the way, I sort of rushed this (not used to writing something overnight on a week day), so excuse any errors. I’m editing bit by bit. I just couldn’t not write a blog about this.

How I Would Reorganize College Football…… Part IV: West of the Mississippi

In College Football, Realignment on October 27, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Earlier Entries to Series:
Part I: Intro
Part II: SEC/Southern Conference
Part III: Big East/ACC Recombination and Big Ten+2+4

Only a few teams I’ve placed previously are West of the Mississippi: Arkansas and Texas A&M of the SEC (or soon-to-be); and Minnesota (which is actually on both side of the river), Nebraska, and Iowa of the Big Ten (+6). If you were wondering, LSU is entirely on the East Bank of the Mississippi.

Big 8/SWC Revival

Geographical notes out of the way, the more central part of the West seems the most problematic lately. Colorado has become a far-eastern outgrowth of the former Pac-10. Nebraska and Texas A&M, as mentioned, have been lost to the so-called Big Ten and SEC, respectively. There seem to be new rumors of defections and expansions every week. I don’t know if my proposal would make everyone happy, but I think it would work.

As before, there is one division on the left, one on the right…North and South work, could also be Midwest and Southwest or something of that nature. They’re lined up so that proposed annual opponents share the same line.

Colorado-Texas Tech
Oklahoma-Texas
Oklahoma St.-Tulsa
Air Force-TCU
Missouri-SMU
Kansas-Houston
Iowa St.-Rice
Kansas St.-Baylor

This is the easiest solution for the West-Middle (to distinguish from Midwest and Far West). Colorado could conceivably be replaced by BYU though. But since we’re talking about what my ideal would be, I’ll just concentrate on what I’m putting up there. The Northern Division is the Big 8, replacing Nebraska with Air Force to give Colorado a more local rival. There is also national interest in Air Force, and part of my idea would be to set it up in such a way that more out of place teams like that would want to be in the newly created set-up. I think pairing Colorado with the West Texas team is more helpful to both than the alternating home-and-homes of the Big XII.

The Southern Division is 7 Southwest Conference teams plus Tulsa. Rice might be a stretch to have in a major conference, but I think their history justifies inclusion in the top 80 to start with. There is no better place to go either to the West or to the East. I think it would make sense to see who does well in the lower divisions and have that make the decision though, even assuming Rice would eventually get demoted. Just some of the teams that would make sense if they were to get promoted from the bottom 40 grouping: La. Tech, Tulane, ULL, ULM, Arkansas St., Memphis, North Texas, New Mexico, New Mexico St., UTEP, Colorado St.

As far as the other permanent rivalries, Oklahoma-Texas is a given, and Oklahoma St.-Tulsa is obvious. Air Force-TCU would be a good MWC holdover. There is no real logic for the other 4 sets of permanent opponents. Missouri-SMU aren’t that far away from one another. I believe that trying to have a selection of teams close to one another is worth adding a little bit to the distance in the other “rivalries”. For example, Oklahoma St.-SMU and Tulsa-Missouri might be less combined travel distance, but I think Oklahoma St.-Tulsa is just more likely to catch on for obvious reasons.

Western/Pacific Conference

I continued to follow the North-South model for my first draft of the Far West/Pac-whatever group, with the Arizona-New Mexico and Colorado-Utah border as the basic dividing line. I had mentioned I didn’t like California teams being place in the North. So this is the first draft.

USC-Washington
UCLA-Washington St.
Cal-Oregon
Stanford-Oregon St.
San Diego St.-Boise St.
Arizona St.-Utah
Arizona-BYU
Hawaii-Nevada

As recent BCS teams that don’t fit elsewhere, Boise St. and Hawaii are sort of obvious as additions. A lot of Pac-10 teams played Hawaii anyway. Boise St. is a natural rival of the Pacific Northwest teams (and in their short history have played at least one of them fairly regularly). BYU has history as well as strong academics. San Diego is an under-utilized market. That was more about potential than how great of a program San Diego St. is right now, although it has been improving.

BYU-Arizona is a classic WAC rivalry, although I don’t remember Arizona being in the WAC. I thought Utah-Arizona St. made a good rivalry between big city teams that happen to be almost at the same line of longitude. I wasn’t completely insensitive to television markets. Washingon-USC seemed like it worked as well. Nevada-Hawaii is another traditional WAC rivalry. Nevada would also be the closest Northern team to Hawaii. Reno might even have direct flights. It seems like there has been more of a rivalry between Cal and Oregon at least until the last couple of seasons. Maybe Oregon and Oregon St. could be switched though.

Then I had another idea. What if I took more of the model from the Western-Middle/Big XII grouping? So why not just make it traditional and leave the former Pac-8 together. San Diego St. and Hawaii would be more out of place, but it might work. The names of the divisions could refer to the conferences from which the teams are taken, such as Pacific and Western divisions. They’re also vague enough titles that it wouldn’t be weird. Hawaii would seem silly in an Eastern or even Southeastern division.

USC-Hawaii
UCLA-San Diego St.
Cal-BYU
Stanford-Nevada
Washington-Arizona St.
Washington St.-Arizona
Oregon-Utah
Oregon St.-Boise St.

USC-Hawaii and Oregon St.-Boise St. have been playing one another with some regularity anyway. Cal-BYU might work. Mormons vs. Hippies. People talked about BYU being relatively incompatible with the former Pac-10, but I thought they could just embrace it. Stanford-BYU might not be bad either, with the private-school, named-after-rich-guy thing. Nevada would be a good permanent opponent for a Bay Area team since it’s basically the closest point in Nevada to the Bay Area. I went for another big-city nexus with Washington-Arizona St. They’re both NFC West cities, so there could be some carry-over from the NFL in getting fans excited. Oregon-Utah seems reasonable since I decided to pair Nevada and Boise St. with other teams. Also (if you count Portland anyway) quasi-big markets, big enough to support NBA teams (both in the same division as well). UCLA and San Diego St. both play in major stadiums in Southern California and are more populist teams. I think that would work well. I sense there might be less complaining by the more traditional Pac-10 fans in this format overall. The non-research-oriented WAC/Mountain riff-raff would be in the other division, so they wouldn’t feel as violated.

I have one more of these to do. Next time, I’m just going to talk about how I would organize the bottom-40 teams.

Week 8 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 24, 2011 at 7:01 PM

This is a weird point in the season for my mathematical ratings as the top 8 teams are all undefeated, and the best one-loss team is Oklahoma at #9. However, this is probably the only week this will happen. If Oklahoma beats Kansas St., and I think almost anyone would expect them to (despite Oklahoma’s loss last week and Kansas St.’s undefeated status), they would add about .15 to their score. A win by Houston over Rice, however, would only add about .03 to their score. Houston currently leads Oklahoma by .027. Also, don’t forget that these ratings are designed to pick the best teams at the top. An undefeated team in most cases will have a better argument for #1 than a team with a loss. However, with dramatically different schedules (like Oklahoma will have after next week and certainly in two weeks), a team with a loss may be higher. Also, it’s much easier for an 11-1 team to get ahead of a 12-0 team than it is for a 6-1 team to get ahead of a 7-0 team. By the way, in Week 10, Houston will play UAB while Oklahoma will play Texas A&M, so that would be another opportunity for Oklahoma to improve its rating significantly as compared to Houston.

As I mentioned last week, Boise St. does not have a very helpful schedule in the next two weeks either with a bye in Week 9 and UNLV in Week 10. Oklahoma St. will play Baylor and then Kansas St. To round out the undefeateds, I think many of us already know what Alabama and LSU will be doing the next two weeks (bye for both, followed by LSU @ Alabama); Clemson will play Georgia Tech, followed by a bye week; I already mentioned Kansas St., with Oklahoma, followed by Oklahoma St. (unlikely, but if they make it to the end of the season undefeated, they might deserve to play in the title game regardless of what anyone else does); and Stanford (who had a more meaningful jump) will play USC, followed by Oregon St.

The Alabama-LSU winner is almost assured #1 and may have a significant lead over #2, but it is possible that due to the bye, Alabama will fall at least one spot in the next ratings before getting that chance. LSU is probably safely #1 until the Alabama game.

Lower down in the rankings, the SEC can’t quite keep a third team in the top 10, but South Carolina is knocking on the door. The Cocks play the Hogs in two weeks, and the winner of that game might have a chance. Not a bad under-card to LSU-Alabama. Virginia Tech may not have much staying power with Duke and a bye week coming up.

Michigan St. made a big jump up by beating Wisconsin, which made a similar leap backwards. Arkansas has slipped with a bye week and then Ole Miss last week, but the Razorbacks should pick it back up if they keep winning. USC has also gone up because not only did they beat Notre Dame, but also Notre Dame had defeated Michigan St., so the Irish count for even more than they would have otherwise. Nothing else of note from 11-20.

Southern Mississippi and Syracuse have mostly been lucky, but they did get quality wins in convincing fashion over the weekend. Auburn is still hanging in there despite the loss to LSU. Arizona St. and Cincinnati backed into the top 25 mostly due to others’ losses. Cincinnati’s schedule thus far doesn’t inspire much confidence, neither does their loss to Tennessee, but sometimes not losing is better than playing a good team. With a win next week, Georgia would probably bypass idle Cincinnati. Despite the win over Oklahoma, Texas Tech still has to recover from its easy early schedule and two losses before last week.


Full 120

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Alabama 2
3 Clemson 5
4 Boise St. 3
5 Okie St. 6
6 Kansas St. 7
7 Stanford 12
8 Houston 11
9 Oklahoma 4
10 Va. Tech 9
11 S Carolina 10
12 Michigan 8
13 USC 21
14 Penn St. 14
15 Oregon 17
16 Mich St. 25
17 Nebraska 15
18 Texas A&M 19
19 Arkansas 16
20 Wisconsin 13
21 So. Miss. —
22 Syracuse —
23 Arizona St. —
24 Auburn 20
25 Cincinnati —

Out of rankings: (18) Illinois, (22) Rutgers, (23) Ga. Tech, (24) W Virginia


Prior rankings:

Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Blog note: I have already set another new record for number of views in a month, with 500 as of midnight.

How I Would Reorganize College Football…… Part III: Big East/ACC Recombination and Big Ten+2+4

In College Football, Realignment on October 22, 2011 at 11:09 PM

LSU note: This is only the Tigers’ fourth 8-0 start (1973, 1958, and 1908). See also the updated LSU/Auburn edition to my Rivalry Series.

Big East/ACC recombination

I’ve already gotten some responses to the first section along the lines of “What about West Virginia? Virginia Tech?” I put them both in this group. As I did before, I’m going to have the two divisions both vertical next to each other with the permanent rivals (other-division team to play every year) paired horizontally.

Miami-BC
Va. Tech-WVU
Virginia-Maryland
USF-Rutgers
UNC-Syracuse
Duke-Army
Wake-Navy
NCS-Connecticut

It’s not the best set-up for West Virginia admittedly, but I think they would have good rivalries with Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Navy. I don’t think they’d be much better off staying in the current Big East with Pitt leaving. I was a little haphazard with the last 5 permanent rivalries, but they wouldn’t really be necessary. The teams could alternate over time. Virginia and Va. Tech could swap occasionally. Breaking up Miami and BC would not be allowed as long as Doug Flutie is alive though. I’m somewhat kidding. You could argue the two Florida teams don’t belong at all, but I’m OK with allowing for custom to prevail over geography in some places.

The Big Ten + 2 + 4

I’ll save going out west for the next blog, so now I’ll go to opponents WVU might miss like Pitt, Louisville, and Cincinnati. I had to pump the current 12-team Big Ten up to sixteen somehow. Wait, I’ve mentioned three…guess who? Could it get a little more obvious than Notre Dame? But hey, that’s a really good basketball conference for them to be in too. Not bad for baseball either. So I think it maintains enough of the Big East that the Domer fans would go for it (I know other sports don’t matter as far as money). Some just want to be obstinate, but remember when the Big Ten and Pac-10 were rigidly opposed to a conference championship game? Not very long ago.

And…and Notre Dame would still play Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan St. every year. Hopefully the mid-90s were long enough ago that they would accept Northwestern as an annual opponent once again. The permanent rival I picked was Louisville. Indiana-Kentucky, makes sense, right?

I toyed with trying to get Notre Dame to play Indiana for the in-state thing or Penn St. to bring back another forsaken rival, but I knew if I got too creative, I would mess up the battle for Paul Bunyan’s little brown oaken bucket of Rosedale or something. I probably already did something bad with putting Ohio St., Illinois, and Indiana in the mostly non-original-Big-Ten division. I checked on this, but I don’t know what all 12 Big Ten trophies are. I read one is being designed right now for Iowa-Nebraska. Good thing I was going to make them permanent rivals anyway. Anyway here it is. If I did miss something more obscure than the Land Grant Trophy (which I reinstated…you’re welcome), keep it to yourself. If I overlooked something major, let me know though.

Michigan-Ohio St.
Michigan St.-Penn St.
Minnesota-Cincinnati
Wisconsin-Pitt
Iowa-Nebraska
Northwestern-Illinois
Notre Dame-Louisville
Purdue-Indiana

I have no reason for Minnesota-Cincinnati or Wisconsin-Pitt, but switching them up didn’t make it any better. The rest seem good. And I know this is crazy, but I would just call the one on the left the North and the one on the right the South.

NHL Realignment Possibilities

In NHL, Realignment on October 20, 2011 at 11:05 PM

On “Mac App,” the site’s namesake and I had an extended discussion that touched upon teams having to travel in sports, and however you might feel about college football, it is an issue in professional sports. Players want to have less travel time, unions do worry about these things, and I think the fans like more local rivalries too.

Anyway, his mention of the NHL (and his team, the Vancouver Canucks) inspired to talk about Hockey realignment, which is necessary because Winnipeg is not exactly in the Southeast. (If you didn’t know, yet another franchise has moved from Atlanta to Canada, so that’s why they’re in the Southeast Division). I’m not an NHL expert, but I do appreciate the game, particularly the playoffs. I think I know enough about rivalries and so forth to give it a try, but I’m sure there are people out there who know more, so if you’re one of those people, feel free to share anything I might be overlooking. I’m also doing a similar series of blogs about college football conferences (I and II so far), and I’ll be looking for input as I get into less-familiar regions of the country.

Anyway, it just makes sense to have match-ups people are going to care about. People in Minnesota, for instance, are going to want to beat Detroit and Chicago regardless of the sport. People in New York are going to want to beat Boston regardless of the sport. And so on.

But like in basketball, Minnesota is probably going to be tacked onto the Northwest rather than a more Midwestern grouping. The existing alignment actually does not have the New York-area teams playing Boston.

Supposedly, the Eastern Conference is against “radical realignment,” but would leaving two divisions alone (except for Winnipeg moving out) and splitting the third really be so radical? I don’t think so. And I just mentioned one thing (Boston-New York) that should be attractive about making a change. Also, I think Buffalo fans would like to see them play the New York-area teams more often.

So I’ll start with the four-division idea. I thought it might be fairer to do what baseball did and create even numbers in each conference (of course baseball has leagues instead of conferences). The 15-team-conference alternative would simply move Columbus from the Eastern Conference Southern Division to the Western Conference Northern Division.

This is one place I wanted input. I was wondering if people would have more of a problem with it being harder to make the playoffs in one conference (which would be the result of 16/14) or more of a problem with uneven divisions in the same conference (which would be the result of 15/15).

I thought this first one was the best based on distance and fan interest, but there is a problem. See if you notice…

Proposal 1, 4 divisions:

Eastern Conference
Northeast—Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York, New York, New Jersey
Southeast—Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus

Western Conference
Northwest—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago
Southwest—St. Louis, Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Colorado, San Jose, Phoenix

My thinking is that it would be better for the non-Ontario/Quebec Canada teams to be all together. My guess is that Vancouver would not want to be with West Coast teams that are so far away as San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. The other Canadian teams aren’t that close, but I certainly think there would be fan interest there.

The main problem with that is the Northwest would include teams in four time zones. The alternative below would keep each division down to two time zones (at most). This only works well under the 15/15 model. But if you really thought 16/14 was a good idea, the Western Conference could take Nashville, and New Jersey could move down to the Southeast.

Proposal 2, 4 divisions:

Western Conference
Far West: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Colorado
Midwest: Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus

Eastern Conference
Northeast—Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York, New York, New Jersey
Southeast—Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

Proposal 3, 6 divisions:

Western Conference
Northwest—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota, Winnipeg
Midwest—St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit
Southwest—San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado

Eastern Conference
Southeast—Washington, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville
Atlantic—Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, New York, New Jersey
Northeast—Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto

I recognize there are a few misfits in Proposal 3: Dallas, Colorado, and Washington. Washington supposedly would rather play the Atlantic teams, but I don’t see a way of moving anyone out of the Atlantic list, except maybe for Pittsburgh (which would unfortunately split them up with Philadelphia). So they would go to the Midwest, and I guess you kick Dallas out of the Midwest, but if you put Dallas back with the Mountain and Pacific Time zone, you’re keeping that problem unnecessarily. Then Colorado isn’t really going to fit anywhere. It’s nowhere near Minneapolis, nowhere near Dallas, nowhere near St. Louis, nowhere near San Jose, nowhere near Calgary and nowhere near Phoenix. If you connect all those other dots, it’s somewhere in the middle. But I think Phoenix is one of the closer options of those, and at least during standard time, it’s in the same time zone.

But I think the way I have it above would make Dallas a little happier by taking away the Pacific Coast teams and giving them two Eastern time zone teams to go with two other central time zone teams. Detroit would at least join one other Eastern time zone team, and I don’t think it works with the Canada teams very well unless there is going to be a team in Windsor.

I’m definitely not an expansion advocate at this point (I don’t think it’s good business, I don’t really care as much about talent dilution), so this is mostly just for fun rather than a serious suggestion, but it occurred to me that it could work really well with the 8-division model like the NFL has. I think Eastern Canada is a notorious expansion/relocation target. Harder to say where a second team would be, my guess would be the Midwest (maybe Milwaukee). But if it’s somewhere to the West and South of Minnesota instead, Minnesota could be moved to the Midwest and the new team could be in the Mid-America division.

Eastern Conference
Old Canada—Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Eastern Canada expansion team
Northeast—Boston, Buffalo, New York, New York
Atlantic—New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Southeast—Nashville, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay

Western Conference
New Canada—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg
Mid-America—Dallas, Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota
Midwest—Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Midwest expansion team
Southwest—San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix

Week 7 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 18, 2011 at 11:27 PM

I’m posting this way too late for as many people to reasonably see it and read it as I would like, but I have too many things to post (I used my time with the internet down to write a few potential blogs) to wait another day.

As I anticipated, LSU is the #1 for real now. Although I have had them #1 subjectively since pre-season, they were 4th in my first mathemetical ratings and 2nd last week. The Tigers did face a slightly better team last week than #1 Alabama had, but the main difference was the amount of credit LSU got for beating Oregon. The Ducks did not count very highly as an opponent until their win over Arizona St. on Saturday.

I don’t factor in margin of victory, so LSU was in a similar position in my ratings at this point last year, but this is much different from LSU’s 7-0 start last year. LSU has won by 13 twice and won the other games by 26 points or more. In last year’s 7-0 start, LSU won 4 games by six points or fewer and none by more than 24 points (not even McNeese St., whom they beat, 32-10). This is the first time the Tigers have had back-to-back 7-0 starts since 1972-73. Last year was the first 7-0 start since 1973, although the Tigers did start 7-0-1 in 1982 and 1987 (the most recent season of which I have no specific memory). This is the first year in LSU history that the Tigers have started 5-0 or better in three consecutive seasons. LSU also started 7-0 back-to-back in 1958-1959 as part of a 19-game winning streak, which was ended in Knoxville. In LSU’s other human-poll national championships, they started 5-0 (2003) and 6-0 (2007), respectively, before losing.

On another note, I noticed that LSU is now only 16 points behind Oklahoma in the coaches’ poll. Alabama is only 23 points behind the Sooners. Oklahoma led by 25 and 35, respectively, last week. Not that it really matters at this point, because the undefeated winner of LSU/Alabama and/or an undefeated Oklahoma team would seem to be automatic for the BCS title game.

Back to my ratings, #3 through #6 are very close to one another. I wouldn’t worry about Boise St. being #3 for very long. The Broncos play Air Force next week and may hold their position, especially if Texas Tech upsets Oklahoma, but I expect Boise St. will be passed up by several teams during the following two weeks. Week 9 is a bye week, and Week 10 is UNLV, which is one of the worst teams.

As for #7 to #10, don’t expect any of the four to make any waves next week. Kansas St. plays Kansas (one FBS win so far), Virginia Tech plays Boston College (no FBS wins so far), and Michigan and South Carolina both have bye weeks. K-State does have a chance to prove themselves (or get exposed) against Oklahoma in the following week, while the rest of the group will have a mediocre slate (Purdue, Duke, and Tennessee, respectively) yet again.

The next group, made up of Houston, Stanford, and Wisconsin are basically resting on their undefeated laurels at this point, although each could face a test next week. Houston has narrow wins over the likes of UCLA, UTEP, and La. Tech, so Marshall could make a game of it as well; Wisconsin will play Michigan St., and Stanford will play Washington. Wisconsin probably won’t keep up with Stanford if both remain undefeated, but Saturday’s wins by Michigan St. and Ohio St. will certainly help Wisconsin to be able to gain some points in the next two weeks. Stanford travels to the Coliseum in the following week.

Penn St., Nebraska, Oregon, and Arkansas should all win easily next week.
Texas A&M, who can probably win easily next week as well (against Iowa St.), and Auburn can still sneak up on some people in their respective conferences. Although both have two losses, only one loss per team is in confernce. Auburn will have a shot at both LSU and Alabama, and Texas A&M will have a shot at both Kansas St. and Oklahoma.

Rutgers and Georgia Tech will have to wait a couple of weeks for good opportunities to move up. Rutgers will play West Virginia in Week 9, and Georgia Tech will play Clemson. Wins over Louisville and Miami next week would be more pedestrian.

USC and Michigan St. can help themselves out dramatically in the next two weeks alone, as USC faces Notre Dame and Stanford, while Michigan St. will face Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Rounding out the top 25, West Virginia should have an easy time with Syracuse next week, but the Carrier Dome can be unpredictable, and then the ’eers will once again cross Pennsylvania to face Rutgers the following week.

They shouldn’t be too surprising after that, but here are the ratings and top 25:

Full 120

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Alabama 2
3 Boise St. 4
4 Oklahoma 5
5 Clemson 6
6 Okie St. 9
7 Kansas St. 14
8 Michigan 3
9 Va. Tech 21
10 S Carolina 11
11 Houston 13
12 Stanford 18
13 Wisconsin 12
14 Penn St. 19
15 Nebraska 15
16 Arkansas 17
17 Oregon —
18 Illinois 7
19 Texas A&M —
20 Auburn —
21 USC —
22 Rutgers 22
23 Ga. Tech 8
24 W Virginia 24
25 Mich St. —

Out of rankings: (10) Texas, (16) N. Carolina, (20) Arizona St., (23) Notre Dame, (25) Baylor


Prior rankings:

Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Tennessee

In College Football, General LSU, Rivalry on October 15, 2011 at 10:53 PM

I’m not sure what happened here. Some of this blog apparently got deleted. I’m working on adding more information so this conforms a little better to the rest of the series.

Overall records

Tennessee now leads the overall series, 20-9-3.
Tennessee leads in Knoxville, 11-3-1.
Tennessee leads in Baton Rouge, 8-4-2.
LSU leads 2-0 in Atlanta (SEC Championships in 2001 and 2007).
Tennessee leads 1-0 in Houston (the 1972 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl).

Longest winning. unbeaten streaks
Tennessee: winning streak, 10 (from 1934 to 1959); unbeaten streak, 13 (from 1934 to 1972).
LSU: winning streak, 4 (2006 to present).

Home/away streaks
UT @ LSU: 5, 1939-1952; unbeaten, 6, 1939-1964
LSU @ UT: 2, 2006 & 2011
UT at home: 9, 1934-1975; unbeaten, 10, 1925-1983
LSU at home: None

Biggest wins
Tennessee’s biggest win in the series was 28-0 in 1940.
LSU’s biggest win in the series was 38-7 in 2011, and that was the most points LSU scored in regulation in a win. LSU’s previous best win (and previous most points scored in regulation) was a 34-9 win, also in Knoxville, in 1988, the Tigers’ first win there.
(LSU’s only shutout win over Tennessee was 7-0 in 1933.)

Two of the three highest winning point totals overall were both in very close games. The 2000 overtime game (38) was LSU’s highest point total in a win, and Tennessee’s highest point total was in a 45-39 win in 1989. LSU tied the total of 38 in regulation in 2011.

In the 24 games between 1925 and 1993, LSU had only 3 wins and 3 ties against Tennessee. The teams did not play for the following 6 seasons, but since there has been more consistent play between the two (2000-2011), LSU has won 6 times in 8 games.

Results and narrative from 2000 to present:

2000—Baton Rouge–LSU, 38-31 (OT)
2001—Knoxville–Tennessee, 26-18
2001—Atlanta–LSU, 31-20
2005—Baton Rouge–Tennessee, 30-27 (OT)
2006—Knoxville–LSU, 28-24
2007—Atlanta–LSU, 21-14
2010—Baton Rouge–LSU, 16-14
2011—Knoxville-LSU, 38-7

Please see this blog for videos. I didn’t want to paste them all below.

Although it was for a stretch there, this series isn’t generally played often, but there have certainly been some memorable games even going back to Nick Saban’s first season at LSU.

One of the defining games of that first season was an overtime win over #11 Tennessee. LSU really needed a win after losing by 17 on the road against a ranked Auburn team and then coming home and suffering an upset to UAB. If LSU loses that game for a third consecutive loss going into the Florida game, things would have looked pretty bleak. At the time, it was only LSU’s fourth win over the Vols in history (in 25 games).

So even though they got blown out by Florida anyway, I still think that Tennessee win was very helpful to the team going forward. After Florida, the Tigers won four in a row, becoming bowl eligible for only the fourth time in 12 seasons.

The end of the game was interesting. LSU had a 46-yard field-goal attempt blocked, leading to the overtime period. The Tigers scored a touchdown on their first play in overtime. After two plays of their possession, Tennessee had the ball at the LSU 11 with a first down. On second down, the Vols advanced the ball to the LSU 4, but the Tiger defense held, giving LSU the win after two incomplete passes.

There was a fairly close loss in early 2001 at Tennessee, but LSU once again didn’t start out that season well and Tennessee was in the top 10.

Tennessee was poised to go to the national championship game when they (surprisingly) met the Tigers again in the SEC Championship game. I say surprisingly because LSU started SEC play 2-3. The Tigers were not intimidated though. After facing an early 17-7 deficit, they would outscore the Volunteers 21-3 in the second half, finally putting the game out of reach with a touchdown to go up 11 with just over two minutes remaining.

Les Miles’ first home game was actually a loss to Tennessee. It didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence, I have to say. LSU got out to a 21-point lead (seemingly picking up where they had left off in 2001) and then it seemed they were trying to coast to victory. They knocked out the Tennessee starting QB, which seemed like a good thing at the time, but it wasn’t. The Tigers managed only three more points before losing in OT. LSU transfer Rick Clausen came off the bench to lead a second-half comeback to finally win a game in Tiger Stadium. (He did start one game for LSU that the Tigers eventually won, but he was removed from that game after a poor first quarter.)

In 2006, LSU got revenge by winning with a touchdown in the final seconds at Tennessee. After another somewhat exciting SEC title game in 2007 (again won by LSU), the Vols’ next trip to Tiger Stadium appeared to be a win just like the last one had been…

When I saw the snap in the waning seconds of the LSU @ Tennessee game in 2010, I turned off my television in disgust. After angrily pacing around and grabbing some refreshment (I do not recall if it was an alcoholic one), I turned the TV back on in time to see what appeared to be an emotional Tennessee player, but he didn’t seem happy. Then I saw what seemed to be a replay of an LSU touchdown.

Not from the game I saw. The only LSU touchdown in the game I saw was a long run from about midfield by LSU QB Jordan Jefferson. At some point I saw the score. I wear glasses, so I questioned whether the “6” I saw was really a 6 or whether it was the “0” I had seen when I was turning the TV off.

This video is the first time I saw the whole thing. In the video, I also noticed for the first time the LSU band was playing the fan-favorite song Neck after the game ended. (When this song is played, the fans say something you can’t quite make out in the video… let’s just say it’s not suitable to type out here.)

Even if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, after the errant snap I mentioned, you can see Derek Dooley apparently trying to get off the field and take his team with him. Curiously though, the officials (often the first people off the field) hung around. More than a minute elapsed before there was any suggestion that there might be another play. Another 30 seconds later, and the call was finally made. Illegal participation on Tennessee. When the announcers count them, there were 13 Tennessee players.

Dooley’s explanation of events is possibly even more fascinating. He mentions that CBS was trying to interview him and he was glad he didn’t do that.

Incidentally, Dooley had given LSU just about all they could handle as the head coach of Louisiana Tech the season before. The Bulldogs only lost to the #9 Tigers by 8 points. That’s one reason I always sort of defended him, but he did seem out of his depth in other SEC venues at times.

Back to the end of the game, I understand at this point that Miles had lost communication with the press box. Miles had retrieved his headset, but I guess Gary Crowton, who was then the offensive coordinator, was on his way downstairs. I don’t think coaches normally hang around a press box when a game appears to be over. Anyway, the way Miles discusses it, he made the play call himself. The next snap was not made until nearly three minutes after the previous one.

This was Les’s rambling after the game. Unlike Dooley, he doesn’t get around to describing the end of the game until about 3:45.

He was responsible for the final play call (the successful one) but didn’t have a good answer as to why so many seconds ticked off the clock before the illegal participation.

One of the reporters mentions toward the end that LSU had a lot more yards than Tennessee but (obviously) had trouble turning yards into points and also committed four turnovers. Sounds familiar.

LSU blew out Tennessee the following year in Knoxville, and the two have not played one another since. It’s unclear when they will play again, but no sooner than 2016 (unless somehow Tennessee and LSU both make the SEC championship game or the same bowl/playoff game next season).

Comments after the 2011 game, including discussion of prior history

Looks like it’s time for the next game between the two to be in Atlanta. I’m not sure how the addition of Texas A&M might alter things, but if the same rotation is maintained, the next regular-season game in this series would be in 2015 in Baton Rouge.

Today’s game ended a streak of 4 straight games in the series that were decided by one possession, and the winning score in three of those four had come with 9 seconds or fewer on the clock.

Speaking of close games, I also wanted to add a note about another game that was extremely close, the 14-13 Tennessee win in Knoxville in 1959. LSU had won 19 games in a row. This included 11 the year before when the Tigers their first major-poll national championship and the only one LSU would have until 2003 (and only AP poll title until 2007).

In the previous week, #1 LSU had knocked off #3 Ole Miss, 7-3, in Billy Cannon’s famous punt return. I found this highlight video. Skip to about 1:45 if you want to see the punt return.

Anyway, strong defense was much more the norm back then, and once again, LSU had to take advantage of one of its few opportunities for points, and once again, the man the Tigers relied on was Billy Cannon, who would win the 1959 Heisman Trophy. When LSU scored what could have been the tying touchdown early in the 4th quarter, they chose to go for two points and give the ball to Cannon. I could not find the video, but if you watched the game today, they showed the stop by Tennessee. Tennessee had nothing but let-down after the game, losing their next three to finish 5-4-1. LSU’s second loss of the season would come in a Sugar Bowl rematch against Ole Miss.

This is a summary by the Knoxville News Sentinel of the 1959 LSU-Tennessee game.

Today was LSU’s first trip to Knoxville as the #1 team since then. (LSU had never been #1 in the AP poll before 1958). Tennessee has only beaten a #1 team one other time, in 1985 against Bo Jackson’s Auburn Tigers, also in Knoxville. Today’s game was one of 9 losses to a #1 team.

The only time I can find that Tennessee was #1 when playing LSU was 1939 in Baton Rouge. The Vols won, 20-0, and would finish the regular season not only undefeated but without having given up a point. However, for some unknown reason, Texas A&M took over the #1 spot two weeks later and ended up winning the AP poll for that year. After the final poll, #2 Tennessee was finally scored upon by USC in the Rose Bowl. The #3 Trojans won, 14-0, to finish 8-0-2. Tennessee finished 10-1, and LSU finished 4-5. Texas A&M would win the Sugar Bowl over #5 Tulane to finish 11-0. #4 Cornell also finished undefeated and untied that year, so Tennessee may have lost #1 simply because of jockeying between the voters for the four top-5 undefeated teams before the bowls.

How I Would Reorganize College Football……. Part II: SEC/Southern Conference

In College Football, Realignment on October 13, 2011 at 4:06 PM

In case you missed it:

Week 6
Top 25 Blog
Full ratings, Week 6
Part 1 of this series

I won’t write as much for the other conferences, so I plan on combining some of those.

The SEC and ACC both arose out of the Southern Conference, which split before the 1933 season. I would take three current ACC teams and add them to the current SEC. Since Texas A&M seems in the SEC already, I included them as well. I did not include Missouri, because although they might make a good rival for Arkansas, they don’t really fit overall. The three ACC teams (Georgia Tech, who used to be in the SEC; Florida St.; and Clemson) would all be in existing SEC states, which doesn’t fit the expansion blueprint, but one thing I would explicitly want to do is keep conferences regional.

I put the most thought into this grouping, so I had a couple of different ideas. One would maintain the East/West idea, but what I did there was add Florida St. to the West (which apparently will already gain Texas A&M). That might not make sense at first blush, but the Western border of the SEC East already runs from Nashville to Gainesville. Both Auburn and Tallahassee (along with the rest of the SEC West) are to the South and West of that line. Ga. Tech (Atlanta is slightly to the North and East of the line I mentioned) and Clemson would be added to the East.

I have the teams in an order so that suggested interdivisional rivals line up. So this is the proposal maintaining the East/West system:

East-West
Florida-Florida St.
S. Carolina-Arkansas
Ga. Tech-Texas A&M
Georgia-Auburn
Clemson-Miss St.
Tennessee-Alabama
Kentucky-LSU
Vandy-Ole Miss

Florida/Florida St. is obvious. The only problem there is the traditional Florida-LSU rivalry (which has been played for 41 straight years…and more times total than Florida-Florida St.) wouldn’t be part of the system. But when the SEC started, each team had two interdivisional rivalries. LSU’s second rivalry had been with Kentucky, whom they had played for 51 consecutive seasons before the format changed. So I started that one again. I don’t think Kentucky’s current permanent rival, Mississippi St. (there have been 37 games total in that series) is a big deal. I’ve maintained Alabama-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Vandy, Auburn-Georgia, and Arkansas-South Carolina. The other new ones are Texas A&M-Ga. Tech and Miss. St.-Clemson. No particular reason for that, but I thought Texas A&M-Clemson was too far apart. Arkansas-South Carolina is too far apart too, but that has been played since the SEC first expanded to 12 teams, and nothing else jumps out as making a whole lot more sense. Arkansas could play Vanderbilt, and that would make for more similar travel distances, but Vandy/Ole Miss is a much better natural and traditional rivalry. Auburn-Ga. Tech (played every year but one from 1902 {or earlier} to 1987) used to be a big deal, but since that hasn’t been played annually for some time (there have only been 2 games in the series since), I thought it best to leave Auburn-Georgia intact.

As far as the ACC teams, Florida St. has only been in the ACC for the last 20 years, so I didn’t think it was too traumatic to move them away from Georgia Tech and Clemson, who are more natural rivals of each other of course. After Florida and South Carolina, Auburn is Florida St.’s most commonly-played SEC opponent (18 prior games). Florida St. has also played Miss. St. and LSU 9 times apiece.

I came up with a North-South format, which also might make sense if Missouri is added by the SEC:

North-South

Arkansas-Texas A&M
Kentucky-LSU
Tennessee-Alabama
Vanderbilt-Ole Miss
S. Carolina-Miss. St.
Georgia-Florida
Georgia Tech-Auburn
Clemson-Florida St.

A lot of the annual inter-divisional rivals are the same as above. In this one, I did reinstate Auburn-Ga. Tech since the Cocktail Party (I’m not calling it whatever else they want me to call it) would necessitate getting rid of Auburn-Georgia. I made the other two current ACC teams play one another though. Also, two former Southwest Conference members (Arkansas and Texas A&M, who have been playing one another anyway) would be permanent rivals. This would get rid of the Golden Boot (LSU-Arkansas) series, but that’s only been going on modernly since SEC expansion in 1992 anyway. (If Missouri were added to the SEC, they could play Texas A&M, and LSU could still play Arkansas.) S. Carolina and Miss. St. were basically just leftovers, but they are less than 500 miles apart, about the same as Miss. St.’s current divisional trip to Arkansas.

Except for Arkansas, the current SEC West stays together and adds Texas A&M and Florida, who already has an annual game against LSU, as mentioned. Florida would once again have an annual rivalry with Auburn. The Tennessee rivalry mostly exists because of the divisional races in the late 1990s, so it’s not a major historical issue. That was before Georgia became serious competition or S. Carolina entered the picture in any meaningful way. Speaking of S. Carolina, Darth Visor wouldn’t be playing his old team as much, but I don’t think that would be the worst thing. I think the other current East teams would get used to not playing Florida without too much difficulty.

There is one glaring problem with this, which is competition. Should there really be 6 BCS titles (and an additional non-BCS-title undefeated season) since 2003 all in one division? But that changes over time. Even though two of those 6 BCS titles are held by Florida, obviously, they’ve fallen a step or two behind the likes of LSU and Alabama in the last couple of seasons. As far as the teams that would be in the North, Arkansas competed for a national title in 2006. Tennessee won one in 1998 after winning its second consecutive SEC Championship. Georgia had an argument for the BCS title game in 2007 (before winning the Sugar Bowl) and won the SEC in 2002 and 2005. The balance of power could shift again. After all, the SEC East (at least the top two teams, Florida and Tennessee) used to be head and shoulders better than the SEC West. Just for illustration, even when LSU upset Tennessee in 2001 to win its first SEC Championship game, the Tigers had lost to Florida, 44-15, earlier in the season.

I’ll try to write these weekly until completion, but I’ve only really had time for one non-rankings blog a week, so if other things come up, they might cause me to spread it out a little more.

Week 6 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football on October 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM

In keeping with the consensus of computer ratings systems, Alabama is #1 on my ratings site. The numbers right now indicate that Arkansas and Penn St. are better than Oregon and West Virginia and also that Vanderbilt is better than Mississippi St. Alabama also has more credit because Alabama is one of two teams (Michigan is the other) with 6 wins against FBS opponents. Although Alabama does have Georgia Southern on the schedule, that game will not take place until November 19.

I’m keeping LSU #1 here on my blog, however, for four reasons. (1) LSU was #1 before I began using the computer system and has not given any cause for concern since, (2) LSU has already played its game against an FCS opponent, so this is one reasons the numbers haven’t caught up yet, (3) I believe that as we progress into the season, Penn St. and Vanderbilt will count less as opponents than West Virginia and Oregon, and (4) LSU itself rates higher as an opponent because its average FBS opponent is better than Alabama’s.

As to the third point, I didn’t mention SEC West opponents Mississippi St. and Arkansas. I think it just so happens (like with the FCS opponent) that LSU happens to have played the easier of the two at this point. LSU will not play Vanderbilt. But keeping with the discussion of the SEC schedule, LSU faces Tennessee next week while Alabama faces Ole Miss. Tennessee has a winning record and Ole Miss has a losing record, so I expect that this will help LSU.

It’s also important not to overlook opponents’ opponents. Arkansas beating Auburn was a big key in Alabama moving into #1. Georgia beating Tennessee helped out Boise St., who passed up Oklahoma also because Florida St. and Missouri (two of Okla.’s opponents) lost. Clemson slipped partly because of losses by Florida St. and Auburn. UCLA’s win over Washington St. (don’t laugh, WSU has three wins) helped to keep Texas from falling too far and also helped Houston to move up.

Hopefully that gave enough background. Here are the ratings:

Full 120

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Alabama 4
3 Michigan 2
4 Boise St. 8
5 Oklahoma 7
6 Clemson 3
7 Illinois 5
8 Ga. Tech 9
9 Okie St. 13
10 Texas 6
11 S Carolina 11
12 Wisconsin 10
13 Houston 19
14 Kansas St. 14
15 Nebraska 12
16 N.Carolina 16
17 Arkansas —
18 Stanford 15
19 Penn St. —
20 Arizona St. —
21 Va. Tech 18
22 Rutgers —
23 Notre Dame —
24 W Virginia 21
25 Baylor —

Out of rankings: (17) Auburn, (20) Washington, (22) S. Florida, (23) Texas Tech, (24) USC, (25) Florida


Prior rankings:

Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason